Lawsuit: Sheriff Salazar had mobile home park manager arrested for criticizing him on TV

Criminal mischief charge against John Ripley dismissed in Sept. 2020, records show

SAN ANTONIO – A lawsuit filed in federal court this week accuses Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar of having the former manager of an east Bexar County mobile home park arrested after the man criticized Salazar on television.

The suit, filed by an attorney representing John Ripley, states that Salazar and other employees of BCSO and the county violated Ripley’s civil rights and his First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

Ripley, the former manager and a current part owner of Jasper Park Mobile Home Park, was arrested last May after BCSO investigators claimed he illegally diverted more than $9,000 worth of water at the property.

Court records show the Class A misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief - impairment of public service that was filed against Ripley was dismissed by Bexar County prosecutors in late September.

The federal suit states that Ripley would have had no economic gain by diverting water for residents, did not remove a water meter or install pipes to divert the water and was arrested in the case even though there was never probable cause to do so.

Ripley claimed in a January 2019 interview with the KSAT 12 Defenders that Salazar and BCSO investigators were focused on him, even though tenants were responsible for code violations on the property, located in the 6700 block of Walzem Road.

These violations included the use of extension cords to split power between multiple mobile homes.

Bexar County mobile home park residents say management using bully tactics to force people out

Ripley, during that same 2019 interview, said deputies sent to monitor the property were often seen just standing around and had targeted him instead of tenants since it made for simpler work.

“The sheriff used a lot of detectives to get back at John for speaking. You gotta get out there and stop those murderers, stop those child molesters,” said Ripley’s civil rights attorney, Randall Kallinen.

Salazar declined to comment on the suit Tuesday and BCSO officials referred inquiries about it to the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office.

A spokesperson for the DA said it could not comment on the pending litigation.

Ripley claims his arrest last year caused him to suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression and nightmares and endangered his life since he was arrested and then kept in custody for 14 hours, despite having close to a half-dozen underlying health conditions that made him more susceptible to becoming seriously ill if he caught COVID-19.

At the time of Ripley’s arrest, the Bexar County Jail had already had hundreds of inmates and BCSO staff test positive for the coronavirus inside the facility.

Ripley, who spoke after Kallinen during a Tuesday morning press conference near the jail announcing the lawsuit, said his arrest was a frightening experience.

“They arrested me, I was in my underwear. I finally convinced them to let me put my pants on,” said Ripley.

Jasper Park History

Jasper Park has for years been an eyesore in east Bexar County and a target of arsonists, who have burned down multiple abandoned mobile homes there.

Residents last summer were told by a real estate eviction company that the park was being shut down and that they must vacate the premises.

The departures were delayed, in part, due to eviction restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Officials from the eviction company at the time said Jasper Park did not have to abide by eviction moratoriums because it is not a federally funded property.

A county spokesperson on Tuesday confirmed that all remaining residents have moved away from the property.

The Defenders on Tuesday could find no sign of anyone currently living there.

Ripley said Tuesday even though he has not managed the property in years, he is still a part owner of it and is currently involved in litigation with two of his siblings over who owns what percentage of the land.

About the Authors: